Chaos theory

The first meeting of the English mobilisation committee after Florence met on December 4, a few days before the Saint-Denis conference. More than 40 attended and there was a lively discussion. Most speakers agreed that the first ESF was very inspiring and has hopefully marked the start of closer cooperation across Europe. According to comrade Jonathan Neale from the SWP, the ESF was "the largest political gathering in world history". I presume demonstrations do not count as "political gatherings" for the comrade. However, various criticisms were voiced. Nick Dearden from the World Development Movement noted that "an organising clique" had developed, which he claimed was those who could afford to travel to the various organising meetings across Europe. Anne Mc Shane from the CPGB pointed to the fact that all meetings inside the Fortezza de Basso had too many platform speakers and not enough contributions from the floor, while comrade Neale complained that many workshops did not actually take place, because the venues were so far from the centre of Florence. Kath Owen, Socialist Alliance member in Leeds, argued against the ban of parties: "Most of them were wearing different hats instead - this is very dishonest." She also criticised the fact that there was no official Socialist Alliance presence in Florence. While there was much common ground over many of the criticisms, there was some dispute as to how problems could be solved. Debate quickly centred on the proposals for an elected ESF leadership, as presented by the French mobilisation committee. Comrades from the CPGB argued that they were a welcome step forward. A lead from the top is needed, I said, in order to bring together the various cross-European networks that have sprung up. If this leadership were democratic and accountable, it would make the process of the ESF more transparent and prevent another unelected 'inner circle' taking control. A majority of those present, albeit a narrow one, argued against the French proposals. Disingenuously, they were criticised by the SWP as "rigid, inflexible und undemocratic", as opposed to the "creative fluidity" of the previous arrangement. Comrade Alex Callinicos argued that the proposals were an attempt by Attac France to "control the ESF top down" and that they were aimed at "keeping the left out". Jeremy Dewar from Workers Power and Peter Cooper from the International Socialist Group supported the SWP. "Without the democracy in place on an international level, we cannot organise the ESF top down", argued, for example, comrade Dewar, conveniently forgetting everything he has ever learned about the Leninist method of organisation. Like the SWP, Workers Power is disabled by bureaucratic centralism - the flip side of which is, of course, anarchism. There are two reasons for this aversion to elected structures: the SWP comrades have wormed their way into the 'inner circle'; as for the others, they have simply become infected by anarchism. Either way the approach owes everything to the likes of Bakunin and Proudhon, and nothing to Marx and Lenin. Fortunately, we were not alone in our criticisms of this approach. Dave Timms from War on Want rounded on the "tyranny of structurelessness". If Attac France was really attempting to make the ESF undemocratic, he argued, then we should attempt to put forward a "third way". Comrade Owen from Leeds also argued for more transparency and accountability. After the meeting, comrades from the CPGB decided to put forward a set of amendments to the French proposals, which, we hoped, would help to make any leadership accountable and truly democratic. We thought that we could even win over the comrades from the SWP, seeing as they were nodding heavily when we put forward some ideas as to how to make the process more transparent. However, after we posted the amendments on the email list for the English ESF mobilising committee, comrade Callinicos replied with this truly dishonest email: "I'm sure that everyone else who was at the English mobilisation meeting on Wednesday will recognise that this unilateral proposal goes completely against the spirit of the discussion. It is strange that those who talked so much about 'accountability' on Wednesday have behaved in such an unaccountable fashion." Comrade Callinicos certainly showed his true bureaucratic colours. While he argued in the meeting for the "creative chaos that has helped all sorts of ideas to express themselves", he cannot tolerate an organisation to the left simply putting forward its views. Such a democratic right is to be stamped upon and outlawed. Presumably, 'chaos theory' is yet another code word for SWP domination. Embarrassingly for comrade Callinicos, Dave Timms jumped to our defence. He posted this on the email list: "What happened to the 'let a thousand flowers bloom/creative chaos' theory the SWP were so excited about at the meeting?". Tina Becker * Preparing for Paris ESF * Parties are part of the movement * Florence success * Setback for unity